The Spectator

A weekly, UK-based magazine covering current political, economic, and cultural issues. Articles include interviews, commentary, opinion pieces, essays, and cultural criticism.

Articles from October 2008

A Laughing Cavalier
CARTOONS AND CORONETS: THE GENIUS OF OSBERT LANCASTER introduced and selected by James Knox Frances Lincoln, £15, pp. 224, ISBN 9780711229334 £12 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 It is a cliché of book -reviewing to write, of a humorous book, 'I began...
A Power to Enthral
The illustrations in children's books play a crucial role in expanding the imaginative horizons of the reader and fixing the story in the memory. The very best book illustration is so inextricably linked to the text that it is hard to think of one without...
A Safe Pair of Hands
A POLITICAL SUICIDE: THE CONSERVATIVES' VOYAGE INTO THE WILDERNESS by Norman Fowler Politico's, £14.99, pp. 238, ISBN 9781842752272 £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 To write a political memoir is difficult. Too bland, too afraid to be rude...
A Very Slippery Book
A review of another biography of that tiresome poser, Lady Hester Stanhope, sent me back to Kinglake's Eothen and the account of the visit he paid the Queen of the Desert, who dwelt in tents (as he found she didn't) and reigned over wandering Arabs...
Back to Simplicity
MLINARIC ON DECORATING by Mirabel Cecil and David Mlinaric Frances Lincoln, £35, pp. 320, ISBN 9780711225411 £28 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 I wish this book weren't so heavy. It is full of such good things that I wanted to carry it around so...
Cameron Has Emerged as a Serious Man for Serious Times
The champagne ban was nonnegotiable: David Cameron did not want any of his aides drinking bubbly at the Conservative party conference. Not that they needed much telling. The mood was already so sombre that some Tory staffers were decanting cans of beer...
Campaigning Genius
'People have a problem with me, ' claims Jamie Oliver, but I'm not one of them. I've had my doubts in the past -- overuse of phrases like 'luvly jubbly', the Sainsbury's ads, the general extreme jealousy of his stupendous wealth, ruining my daughter...
Can Comrade Hank Find a Way through This Crisis?
New York It's hard to keep up with Hank Paulson, the grim-faced US Treasury Secretary and would-be architect of a new financial order. Over the past eight months, since the collapse of the investment bank Bear Stearns, Paulson has been confronted with...
Carrie on Shopping
ONE FIFTH AVENUE by Candice Bushnell Little Brown, £12.99, pp. 469, ISBN 9781408701119 £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 One of life's intriguing mysteries was how Carrie Bradshaw managed to fund a rapacious Manolo Blahnik habit whilst spending...
Clinton Democrats Are to Blame for the Credit Crunch
'Let us be clear: this is a crisis caused on Wall Street, ' insisted Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her consensusstrangling speech on Monday, shortly before her fellow members of the House of Representatives voted to reject the President's $700 billion bailout...
Confusing Frolic
La Calisto Royal Opera House Tosca Opera North, Leeds It's not often that you find the Royal Opera going as far back as the 17th century, no doubt for the good reason that operas written then are not suitable for performance in such large houses. That...
Diary
I was without my dance partner last week. John Stapleton had abandoned me on the GMTV sofa for the comforts of a hotel in Manchester and a well-stocked mini-bar. Apparently this particular Labour party conference was like a family having problems, putting...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
Sunday Am exhausted already. It's this earpiece. Every time I get settled into watching a debate or fringe event I hear Gary's voice shouting orders and I'm running off to some other place where an alleged BCR (Breach of Complacency Rules) is taking...
Diving into Darkness
CONNEMARA: THE LAST POOL OF DARKNESS by Tim Robinson Penguin, £20, pp. 359, ISBN 9781844881550 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In 1972 Tim Robinson -- a Yorkshireman by birth, a Cambridge mathematician by training, and an artist by vocation --...
Farewell to the Bank That Did Dull
This is getting serious -- so serious that I've done something I may have cause to regret terribly a year or two hence. I have sold my shares in Lloyds TSB. I did so with a heavy heart, and an even heavier loss, since they were bought when the shares...
Health Check
'My life's over, doctor, ' I said. 'A young man like you! Nonsense!' he said, peering at me over his half-moon glasses. He was that wonderful combination: a fat man squeezed into an old-fashioned waistcoat. Occasionally, he mopped the perspiration from...
Horse Cure
Wars never get easier. Since Georgia, I have had flashbacks of an elderly woman crying her eyes out after being driven from her village by Russian bombs. When I was younger I used to bring real black dogs home with me, but not so much nowadays. My threestage...
I'm Proud to Be Famous for Being Rude
When I was ever so small and sweet, romper-suited and frilly-booted and really quite an angel to look at, I must have had a gob on me like an angry plasterer, because the only piece of advice I can remember my mother ever giving me is: 'If you've got...
In Praise of Older Women
When I read that actor Robert Wagner had had a four-year-long affair with Barbara Stanwyck back in 1952, my first reaction was that of envy and more envy. Wagner is 77 this year and Babs would have been 101, so when they were canoodling together he...
iPod Dilemma
A musician friend of mine acquired his first iPod recently, and like small boys who don't realise that everyone else went through this about five years ago, he and I frequently discuss our battles with the things. To be fair, though, there is some substance...
Losing Is the New Winning
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People 15, Nationwide How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is based on Toby Young's best-selling memoir of the same name and, already, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking: what, a film based on Toby's book?...
Meditation on Meaning
Rothko Tate Modern, until 1 February 2009 The first thing that should be noted is that this exhibition is not the retrospective that its title implies. In fact, it's a severely limited show, concentrating on the late work only. There are therefore none...
Morality Tale with a Difference
A MOST WANTED MAN by John le Carre Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99, pp. 340, ISBN 9780340977064 £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Location, location, location is as much the mantra of espionage fiction as it is of another profession's literature...
Of Cabbages and Kings
GARDENS: AN ESSAY ON THE HUMAN CONDITION by Robert Pogue Harrison University of Chicago Press, £12.50, pp. 248, ISBN 9780226317892 When I was a student, my Cambridge superv isor said, in the Olympian tone characteristic of his kind, that the only living...
Second-Hand Heaven
The tent had been a big hit over the summer. They called it a tent, but it was big enough for elephants and tightropes: a big top as big as a ballroom and just as plush, lined and interlined like a lush pair of curtains, certainly ridiculous, but pretty...
Sex, Lies and Apparitions
The Medjugorje story begins early in 1976 when a Franciscan monk in the former Yugoslavia, Father Tomislav Vlasic, starts an affair with a nun who becomes pregnant. Frightened he will be exposed as the child's father, Father Vlasic persuades her to...
Sound Sensations
Why do some sounds endure to jolt the memory and take us back to a specific moment in time, like Proust's taste sensations, while others fade away? The chunter-chunterchunt of a steam train, for instance, is instantly recognisable even for those too...
Spectator Mini-Bar Offer
One thing I like about the wine trade is that people are always optimistic. If the country is prospering, why, they say, folk will spend loads more on wine. If we are in deep trouble, as today, we will eschew eating out and stay at home with a bottle...
Stage-Effects in Earnest
CHURCHILL'S WIZARDS by Nicholas Rankin Faber, £25, pp. 466, ISBN 9780571221960 £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Deception plays a large part in war, just as feinting plays a large part in sport. The British excel at it, and used it with much success...
Team Tactics
An old friend in journalism, well aware that he was prone to conspiracy theories, especially where his own career was concerned, used to say to me, 'Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean the bastards aren't out to get me.' So were the authorities out...
The Church Is Culpable Too
Sir: Will Rowan Williams start his call for 'fresh scrutiny and regulation in the financial world' ('Face it: Marx was partly right about capitalism', 27 September) by glancing at the institution he heads? I am told that the 2007 Church of England target...
The End of Old Labour
DOWNING STREET DIARY: WITH JAMES CALLAGHAN IN NO.10 by Bernard Donoughue Cape, £30, pp. 562, ISBN 9780224073806 £24 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Bernard Donoughue has produced several valuable books, one of them a biography of Herbert Morrison...
The Leader We Need
The latest news in the financial crisis is that, after weeks of blamecalling by all parties -- generally misdirected, as Dennis Sewell argues in our cover story -- a single culprit has at last been identified. It is human nature -- that incorrigible...
The Masters of the Universe Have Turned to Drink
It's possible to get a reservation again at Scott's. The City boys have well and truly left the building, and can now be found drowning their sorrows elsewhere, in dark corners of the West End and Chelsea, as far away from the prying eyes of the City...
The Pragmatic Approach
WHAT NEXT? SURVIVING THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY by Chris Patten Allen Lane, £25, pp. 459, ISBN 9780713998566 £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 It seems a bit early to be discussing how to survive the 21st century. After all, there are 92 years left...
The Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards
Nominations for the inaugural Spectator's Readers' Representative award are now open. The entries received so far show that there are at least some elected officials who have earned both the trust and respect of their constituents. Oliver Mitchell puts...
The Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards
Nominations for the inaugural Spectator's Readers' Representative award are now open. The entries received so far show that there are at least some elected officials who have earned both the trust and respect of their constituents. Oliver Mitchell puts...
The Spectator's Notes
Birmingham David Cameron's 'statesmanlike' promise on Tuesday to do whatever is necessary to save the nation and reach 'across the aisle', as they say in Congress, is one of the dirtiest and oldest political tricks, but no less effective for that. It...
The Wiki Man
One of the most interesting books from the last year has been Revisiting Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (MIT Press, £20) -- a reprint of a 1931 essay by J.M. Keynes in which he describes what his readers' grandchildren should expect...
To the Manner Born
It is both blessing and curse for luxury goods brands that they largely appeal to cads and parvenus. Would a true gentleman wish for a £15,000 white alligator attaché-case or oversize sunglasses whose frames could accommodate a Velázquez? Such frivolities,...
Unruly Children as Parents
STARSTRUCK by Cosmo Landesman Macmillan, £14.99, pp. 324, ISBN 9780330446280 If as a child you found your parents embarrassing then this hiss-andtell memoir will make you feel a lot better, as Cosmo Landesman had parents who were off the Richter scale...
Was I Wrong to Turn Down My Chance to Star on Tory TV?
'Would you be interested, ' said the startlingly eager girl at the Birmingham conference centre, 'in recording a message in the Conservative Video Box?' God, I was pleased about that. There I was, neither a blond female, nor a readily identifiable member...
Why Has the Word 'Grandmother' Been Banned by the Guardian?
There are too few active homosexuals and career women in the Third World. This is because blacks and Asians -- from Australasia to Bangalore -- have a tendency to put them in a pot, cook them and eat them. Primitive African tribes also eat crippled...
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